Tarana Burke, the activist who coined the phrase that started the #MeToo movement, reacted Monday to the news of Asia Argento allegedly paying off an underage sexual assault victim in 2013, saying “sexual assault is about power and privilege,” and “that doesn’t change if the perpetrator is your favorite actress, activist or professor of any gender.”
She added: “We won’t shift the culture unless we get serious about shifting these false narratives.”
The reaction in a series of tweets comes after a Sunday report in the New York Times that Argento — the Italian actress and Harvey Weinstein accuser, and outspoken sexual assault-victim advocate — made an arrangement to pay off Jimmy Bennett, an actor-musician who accused her of sexually assaulting him in a California hotel room 2013 when he was 17 years old.
According to the Times, Argento arranged a deal to pay Bennett $380,000. The Times said the alleged assault happened months past his 17th birthday; Argento was 37 at the time. In court documents, a selfie with the two lying in bed was included.
Burke was ahead of the curve creating the #MeToo hashtag, which became synonymous with the revelations of sexual abuse and misconduct that became national news with exposés on Harvey Weinstein last fall in the Times and the New Yorker. Since then, allegations and accusations have surfaced worldwide, leading to the downfalls of high-profile people of power in all walks of life.
“A shift can happen,” Burke said today. “This movement is making space for possibility. But, it can only happen after we crack open the whole can of worms and get really comfortable with the uncomfortable reality that there is no one way to be a perpetrator. …and there is no model survivor. We are imperfectly human and we all have to be accountable for our individual behavior.”
Another Weinstein accuser, Rose McGowan, also weighed in Monday, saying her “heart is broken.” Like Burke, rather than fully distancing herself from Argento, McGowan suggested watchers “be gentle” as “the truth of the situation” is not yet known.
Argento’s lawyer has not made an official comment, and Bennett had not released a statement. Argento — whose boyfriend was the late TV host/chef Anthony Bourdain, who committed suicide in June — has not been active on Twitter since July 24.
Here’s Burke’s full Twitter thread from today: